The Bedtime Blues

cranky toddler photo

Bedtime issues are frequently emotionally charged for parents of young children. Parents who have trouble getting their kids into bed or staying in bed throughout the night feel sleep-deprived, have less patience than they would under normal circumstances and often feel resentful toward the child they love so dearly.

This response is perfectly normal but it makes parents feel guilty and frustrated. In addition, the longer poor sleep routines exist, the bigger toll it takes on marital relationships, personal effectiveness and overall family interactions.

Corrective measures for bedtime and sleep issues are NOT intuitive. In fact, the opposite is true: most of the intuitive approaches that parents use to “correct” bedtime problems actually make them worse.

There are several factors that impact bedtime and sleep battles, however, to correct them for the long term, we have to understand:

  • the psychology behind the child’s behavior
  • why our corrective measures aren’t working
  • how we contribute to the problem

In this article, I want to address the AMOUNT of sleep children are getting. Most children (toddlers through teens) get less sleep than they need for healthy physical development. Insufficient sleep also negatively impacts child’s behavior, social relationships and school performance.

Parents often think that because the child is having trouble going to sleep, she must not be tired. This is not the case!

Usually, we’ve missed the “window of opportunity” for when their bodies want to go to sleep and they become agitated and “wound-up”. Once we miss the “window”, it is very difficult to get the child calm enough to go to sleep.

The best first-step is to begin making bedtime 30 minutes to 1 hour earlier than the current routine and making sure the routine is the same throughout the week. Remember, their bodies don’t know the difference between a weeknight and the weekend. A consistent bedtime is critical to resolving the sleep issues.

The chart below is from Jodi Mindell, Ph.D., Author of Sleeping Through The Night. It lists the average amount of sleep a child needs for each age.

Age Average Total Sleep Needed

2 years – 11.5 to 15.5 hours*
3 years – 11 to 14 hours*
4 years – 10 to 13 hours*
5 years – 10 to 12.5 hours* (May not include nap)
6 years – 10 to 11.5 hours
7 years – 9.5 to 11.5 hours
8 years – 9.5 to 11.5 hours
*Includes combination of nap and nighttime sleep

Take an honest assessment of how much sleep your child is getting versus how much he needs.

In addition to making sure we’re clear on our child’s true sleep needs and adjusting bedtimes, there are a variety of other strategies we need to implement – including removing the PAYOFF that kids get from bedtime battles.

Please check out “The Bedtime Blues” training.

About the Author

Amy McCready
Nationally recognized parenting expert and “recovering yeller” Amy McCready is the Founder of Positive Parenting Solutions and the author of If I Have to Tell You One More Time…The Revolutionary Program That Gets Your Kids to Listen Without Nagging, Reminding or Yelling. Amy is a regular parenting contributor on The TODAY Show and has also appeared on Rachael Ray, CBS This Morning, CNN, Fox & Friends, MSNBC, Steve Harvey and elsewhere. Amy’s next book, The “Me, Me, Me” Epidemic: A Step-by-step Guide to Raising Capable, Grateful Kids in an Over-Entitled World (Penguin Random House), will be released in August 2015. In her most important role, she plays mom to two teenage boys. She has been married to her husband, Dave, for over 25 years and lives in Raleigh, North Carolina.